The Ultimate TI Calculator FAQ - Transferring files

by Patrick Davidson ( - Return to FAQ index - Return to my main page
  1. How do I send programs to the calculator?
  2. Where can I obtain a Graph-Link and the software for it?
  3. I don't have a Graph-Link but still want to send some programs. Give me the games in text format! Now!
  4. The Graph-Link software won't let me open ASM programs! What can I do?
  5. How fast does the link port send data?
  6. Where do I connect the Graph-Link to my computer?
  7. What files can I send to the calculator?
  8. I can't send .ASM, .Z80, etc. files to my calculator! What can I do about this?
  9. I have a USB cable (or no cable at all) so I can't use TI Graph-Link software! How can I view/edit programs on the computer?

How do I send programs to the calculator?

Transferring programs to your calculator requires a special device commonly called a Graph-Link (though TI now refers to them as "TI Connectivity Cables"). This connect to both your computer and your calculator, allowing files to be transferred between them. The Graph-Link is not the same device used to connect calculators.

Where can I obtain a Graph-Link and the software for it?

The easiest kind is that made by TI. You can probably get these in any store that sells electronics like your calculator; Staples, for one, carries these. There are two kinds of cables for the serial port: the "Gray" and "Black" links. If you have a Macintosh, you may be able to use only the Gray link. The Gray link usually costs about $35, while the black link costs about $20.

There are also newer USB cables made by TI, which are faster than the "gray" link but may be harder to use if you have one of the older calculator models (in particular, TI's software will not communicate with an older calculator by the USB cable, but you can download other software that will). The USB cable is also sometimes called the "silver" link.

Note that many newer PCs do not have (regular) serial ports, and many older ones do not have USB ports. This might be a problem if you get a link cable of a type that can't be connected to your computer, so I would recommend checkings this first.

It is also possible to use so-called "homemade" links. There are both serial port and parallel port versions of the homemade link. Even though the serial port version is sometimes called the "$4 Link" while the parallel port version is called the "$5 Link", the parallel port version is actually much simpler, easier to build, and less expensive. The basics section of includes extensive information on linking, including plans to build these homemade cables (however, it's list of link software is out of date -- the newest version of TiLP should be used instead).

If you are using any of the link cables made by TI (as well as some of the homemade ones which work similarly), you can use the software supplied by TI for Windows or Mac, which you can download from TI's calculator site. There are two program's on TI's site. One is the "TI Graph-Link" software, which is the older software. There are separate versions of TI Graph-Link for each calculator, and they support both the gray and black serial cables, but not USB cables. The TI Graph-Link software will work on Windows 3.1 (with the gray link only) and there are even DOS versions (but only for the TI-82 and TI-85). It includes program editors to allow you to write (but not test) basic programs on your computer. The newer software is "TI-Connect" which has one version to work with all calculators. It supports both the black and gray serial cables as well as USB cables. The Mac version of TI-Connect supports all calculators, but the Windows version only supports newer ones (TI-82 and TI-85 are not supported). If you have one of these calculators and want to use a USB link under Windows, you won't be able to use any of these cables with TI's software.

Many others have developed there own software to use link cables. The most extensive (and recently updated) of these is TiLP>, which is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It supports all calculators and all types of link cables. This program may be slightly harder to use than TI's software, but in addition to supporting all combinations of calculator and cable, it also transfers faster than TI's software. There are also many other link programs for various combinations of calculator, link cables, and operating systems available from the archives.

I don't have a Graph-Link but still want to send some programs. Give me the games in text format! Now!

In general, it is not practical to type in programs of significant size by hand. Please refer to my page about why you should not ask for games in text format for a more detailed explanation. In general using the Graph-Link is by far the best way to transfer programs.

If the program is written in basic and is very short (like a "guess the number" game might be) then you can use the TI Graph-Link software to view the program's text. You could then type this in on the program editor. This will unfrortunately be rather difficult for longer programs, so it is not recommended. It would probably be better to get someone else who does have a Graph-Link to transfer the file for you, or send the program between calculators from another calculator that already has the file.

The Graph-Link software won't let me open ASM programs! What can I do?

You cannot view the text of an asm program, since it is not in the basic language you normally view, but instead is raw machine code, which would appear as complete nonsense. This is the reason you may get messages saying things like "this is a compiled assembly program and cannot be edited."

You can still transfer the program to the calculator. You just must use the software's Send command (in the Link menu) to send it; this allows you to transfer the file without opening it in the editor. It is not necessary to edit the program to do this.

This message does not occur just because the programmer wanted to stop users from editing the program. If you want to modify the program, you will need to get the source code, modify it, and recompile the program. Of course, some programmers keep their source code to themselves in order to prevent you from editing the program, in which case it will be very difficult for you to do so.

How fast does the link port send data?

The calculator's linking protocol does not have one set speed. Instead, the protocol used involves acknowledging each bit after it is sent, so the transmission will go at whatever speed both ends are able to handle.

For all the TI-82 through TI-86 calculators (excluding the TI-83 Plus Silver Edition and TI-84 Plus) transmission between two calculators runs at about 1 kilobyte per second. The TI-83 Plus Silver Edition (and TI-84 Plus) should be faster (precise figures unavailable) since it has a faster processor as well as special linking hardware. The TI-89, TI-92, and TI-92 Plus calculators are much faster; I have measured a speed of between 4 and 5 kilobytes per second when sending data between a TI-89 (HW1, AMS 2.05) and a TI-92 Plus (HW2, AMS 2.04). However, note that when sending lots of small files, the overhead of sending each file separately will make the transfer rate seem slower.

When sending between a calculator and a computer, the speed will depend not only on the calculator's speed, but also the type of link cable and which software is used. Unfortunately, high speeds are not possible case using the "gray" Graph-Link. This link cable actually converts between the calculator's protocol and RS232, and sets the speed to 9600 bps (around one kilobyte per second). This does have the advantage of allowing you to connect the calculator to a modem and actually use it with a terminal program on the calculator. If you are using a TI-82 through TI-86 (with above mentioned exceptions) this speed should not be too much of a problem since only slightly worse than calculator-to-calculator transfer. However, if you have a TI-89 or above, then using the gray Graph-Link limits transfer rates to far below the capabilities of the calculator.

If you are using the USB or black serial link from TI or a homemade link cable (and your computer is fast enough, which should be the case for almost everyone) then sending between the computer and the calculator should be much faster. I have gotten speeds up to about 2.5 kilobytes per second with a homemade parallel cable with a TI-92. I have gotten even better results using version 6.72 of TiLP with the USB cable; it could get around 1.8 kilobytes per second on the TI-82, TI-85, or TI-86, and up to 5 kilobytes per second with a TI-92 Plus.

The software used on a computer can have a large effect on the speed. The older versions of TiLP, for example, were much slower with the USB cable than the results just mentioned. Also, the new TI-Connect program by TI is apparently somewhat slow, among other things due to a large delay before starting a transfer.

Where do I connect the Graph-Link to my computer?

If you have the "silver" USB link, then it connects to a USB port, just as the name suggests. Both the gray and black Graph-Links made by TI connect to your computer's serial port. If you can't find this on your computer, the manual for your computer should include a diagram stating where it is. Also, it's likely to be labeled in small writing (perhaps saying 'serial port' or maybe '10101') next to the port. Note that new computers usually don't have a serial port at all and so could only use the USB link

If you can't find any port the serial link will fit in (even though you may have found the serial port) the problem is likely that your serial port has 9 pins but the Graph-Link has 25 holes on its connector. If this is the case, you need an adapter to use the Graph-Link. Any store that sells computer parts should be able to supply you with one of these for a low price.

What files can I send to the calculator?

Calculator program files are normally .82p, .83p, .8xp, .85s, .86s, .89z, .92p, and .9xz files. The two numbers (or number and letter for "Plus" calculators) at the beginning of the extension identify the calculator the file is for, and the letter at the end identifies the file type. A last letter of 'p' identifies a program file. TI-85 programs normally are .85s (if they are assembly) since assembly programs on that calcualator are stored as strings. For the TI-89 and TI-92 Plus, the last letter is a 'z' to identify an assembly program. Other file types that you can send include those ending in 'b' (for full backups, which will erase everything in the calculator when you install them) and those ending in 'g' (which are groups of multiple files).

I can't send .ASM, .Z80, etc. files to my calculator! What can I do about this?

You shouldn't be able to send these files to the calculator. Files like these are source code, which the executable program is built from. These are ordinary text files, which you would only edit if you wanted to examine or modify the internal workings of the program. Since they aren't calculator files, you can't send them to the calculator. Even if you could, it wouldn't be very useful since you couldn't run them directly.

Instead, you should send the calculator files to the calculator instead, and run those. You can view the instructions or source code on your computer using a text editor like notepad (or maybe even somethig more advanced, if you prefer).

I have a USB cable (or no cable at all) so I can't use TI Graph-Link software! How can I view/edit programs on the computer?

You will need to use the TI Graph-Link software for this purpose. You can install the TI Graph-Link software even if you don't have the right type of cable (or any cable at all). You will still be able to use the software to view or edit basic programs, but not to send it. If you want to write a program on the computer and send with the USB cable, you will have to enter it with the Graph-Link software, then save it, and then use the TI-Connect software to send the file that you created with the Graph-Link software.